When you think about the reasons for Michael Jordan’s incredible success, many ideas come to mind.
As someone who watched his entire career and has written more than a dozen posts about him, I have some strong thoughts on the subject.
MJ’s insane, otherworldly athleticism is no doubt a big factor. Michael Jordan was an outlier athlete in a league full of crazy athletes.
The only factor that may outweigh athleticism in his success is Jordan’s competitiveness.
Tales of Michael Jordan’s obsessive, over-the-top competitive nature abound. He made teammates cry, gambled to the point of absurdity and, most notably won six NBA titles and etched his name at the top of the list of all-time great basketball players.
But one factor in Michael Jordan’s NBA success gets mostly overlooked: his hands. Michael Jordan had huge hands – even by NBA standards.
Those hands allowed Michael Jordan to handle and control the ball in a way that few NBA players could. And MJ’s giant hands are one of the more underrated contributors to his success.
Table of Contents
What size are Michael Jordan’s hands?
There are two ways to measure a basketball player’s hands. Length is the distance from the bottom of the palm to the tip of the middle finger.
Michael Jordan’s hands were 9.75” long.
Another way to measure hand size is span. When the fingers are extended, this is the distance from the end of the thumb to the tip of the pinky finger.
Michael Jordan’s hand span was 11.375” wide.
Because there are two measurements, it can be hard to get a definitive list of the biggest hands in NBA history. But, depending on the source you believe, MJ had among the biggest hands in the history of the NBA.
Some sources put Jordan’s hands in the top ten in league history. There is no doubt whatsoever that they were enormous!
How Does Having Big Hands Help NBA Players?
There is almost do doubt that having huge hands helps a player in the NBA. One way to think about this is to consider the opposite: would having tiny hands hurt a player?
The answer to that is most certainly yes: not being able to grab the ball as easily in loose ball situations and not being able to palm the ball to dunk would most certainly make a player less effective.
It is almost certain that having smaller-than-average hands for their size would be a major negative for an NBA player.
But would average hands be enough? Does having huge hands actually help? The answer to the second question seems to be yes.
Players like Dr. J and Michael Jordan used their huge hands to palm the ball easily. Doing so helped them to drive the hoop and find ways to finish easier.
In Jordan’s case he also used his huge hands to fake defenders out regularly. This video of his one-handed fakes is amazing.
The fake on Brent Price, brother of Mark Price, is incredible. He makes him look like a child!
The advantages a player like Jordan gets from huge hands is fairly obvious. But, when in doubt, it’s good to turn to an expert.
In this interview with Gene Siskel, Michael Jordan himself explains how his huge hands helped him in the NBA.
Having huge hands was an advantage for Michael Jordan in the NBA like it was for other greats like Dr. J who had huge hands.
Another all-time great, Kobe Bryant, was asked about Jordan’s hands in this ESPN article. In it, Kobe said:
“Michael was blessed with massive hands and Dr. J (Julius Erving) as well and some of these other players. I wasn’t. I have big hands, but (Jordan and Erving) can literally pick up the ball like an orange, so I’ve had to do things to strengthen my hands, strengthen my forearms to make sure I have that grip to be able to do it. They obviously had the natural capabilities to do it. I had to work to get that strength to be able to do it.”Kobe Bryant on MJ’s hands
If it’s good enough for Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, it’s good enough for me: having huge hands helps players in the NBA.
Check Out My Other Michael Jordan Articles
- I wrote about MJ’s retirements here.
- I wrote about MJ’s enormous hands here.
I have been a Boston sports fan for more than forty years. I write about games, players and seasons from the past.